US 7086270 B2
A method and device for self-test of a sensor. The method includes stimulating the sensor with signals that generate sensor outputs at a frequency that differs from the frequency of expected sensed parameter signals. The sensor output is filtered to remove the effects of the stimulation inputs, generating a sensed parameter signal. The unfiltered sensor output is compared to the expected output of the sensor with the stimulus input. A malfunctioning sensor may be detected by the comparison and appropriate action may then be taken.
1. A method for determining a sensed parameter using a sensor, the sensor generating a signal, the sensor including complementary self-test stimulation inputs, the method comprising:
a. stimulating the sensor using the complementary self-test stimulation inputs;
b. filtering the sensor signal;
c. determining the sensed parameter based on the filtered sensor signal;
d. comparing the sensor signal to an expected signal and generating a sensor self-test signal based at least in part on the comparison; and
e. periodically repeating steps a through d.
2. A method according to
3. A method according to
4. A method according to
5. A method according to
6. A sensor assembly for determining a sensed parameter while testing a sensor, the sensor assembly comprising:
a. the sensor, the sensor including an output for generating an output signal, the sensor including complementary self-test stimulation inputs;
b. a stimulator connected to the sensor for injecting a stimulation signal;
c. a filter connected to the sensor output, such that the filter substantially removes the portion of the output signal due to the stimulation signal; and
d. a comparator connected to the sensor output, the comparator generating a sensor self-test signal.
7. A sensor assembly according to
8. A sensor assembly according to
9. A sensor assembly according to
10. A computer program product for use on a computer system for determining a sensed parameter value while performing sensor self-test, the system including a sensor, the sensor including complementary self-test stimulation inputs, the computer program product comprising a computer usable medium having computer readable program code thereon, the computer readable program code including program code for:
a. stimulating the sensor using the complementary self-test stimulation inputs;
b. filtering a sensor output signal;
c. determining the sensed parameter value based on the filtered sensor signal; and
d. comparing the sensor signal to an expected signal and generating a sensor self-test signal based at least in part on the comparison.
11. A computer program product according to
e. periodically repeating steps a through d.
12. A computer program product according to
13. A computer program product according to
The present invention relates to methods of self-test for sensors and, particularly, for micromachined capacitive sensors.
Micromachined accelerometers can be used to sense acceleration for a variety of applications, including sensing the acceleration that occurs as a result of an automobile accident in order to trigger an air bag, or sensing the acceleration resulting from an earthquake in order to automatically shut off a gas line to prevent fires.
In one type of micromachined device, a polysilicon mass is suspended over a substrate by supporting tethers. The mass, which is essentially parallel to the substrate, has a beam elongated along an axis, and a number of fingers that extend away from the beam in a direction perpendicular to the axis of the beam. The beam and fingers are movable laterally relative to the substrate along the axis. Each of these movable fingers is positioned between two polysilicon fingers that are in the plane of the mass and are fixed relative to the substrate. Each movable finger and the fixed fingers on either side of the movable finger form a differential capacitor cell. The cells additively form a differential capacitor. A structure of this type is shown, for example, in U.S. Pat. No. 5,345,824.
Different approaches can be used to sense acceleration with such a differential capacitor. One approach is to use force feedback, as described in U.S. Pat. No. 5,345,824. The movable fingers (i.e., movable with the mass) are each centered between two fixed fingers. All the fixed fingers on one side of the movable fingers are electrically coupled together, and all the fixed fingers on the other side of the movable fingers are also electrically coupled together. The two sets of fixed fingers are at different DC potentials and are driven with AC carrier signals that are 180 degrees out of phase with respect to each response to an external force/acceleration along a sensitive axis, the mass with movable fingers moves toward one or the other set of fixed fingers. The signal on the beam is amplified, demodulated, and provided to an output terminal. A feedback network connects the output terminal and the beam. The feedback causes the movable fingers to be re-centered between the two sets of fixed fingers. The signal at the output terminal is a measure of the force required to re-center the beam, and is therefore proportional to acceleration.
Self-test by means of electro-static activation of a sensor's mechanical system has been used by many sensors, such as the accelerometer described above, but only at discrete periods of time when actual parameter measurement cannot take place. For example in an automotive safety system the inertial sensors may be tested at key-on when it is assumed that the vehicle is not moving. However, it may be desirable to test sensor integrity continuously, so that the safety system can be alerted to the malfunctioning of a sensor in real time and can take appropriate action.
In a first embodiment of the invention, a method and device are provided for determining a parameter value using a sensor while performing sensor self-test. The sensor is stimulated by self-test inputs at a stimulation frequency. The output of the sensor is then compared to the sensor response expected from the stimulation. If an unexpected response is detected from the sensor, a malfunction of the sensor may be identified. If the sensor output is as expected, the sensor output may be filtered to remove the effects of the stimulation and sensed parameter values may be determined based on the filtered signal.
In other embodiments of the invention, the stimulation of the sensor may be repeated over a range of duty cycles from a low duty cycle to a 100% duty cycle. In another embodiment of the invention, sensor self-test may be performed with minimal hardware support by using a system processor to control and monitor the sensor output. In a further embodiment of the invention, a system processor may cause self-test stimuli to be injected into the sensor at a low duty cycle and may determine sensed parameter values when the self-test stimuli are not injected.
The foregoing features of the invention will be more readily understood by reference to the following detailed description, taken with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which:
In various embodiments of the present invention, a method of continuously testing sensors is provided. The method includes stimulating a sensor at high frequency and looking for appropriate sensor output response. A subsequent low pass filter can remove the response to the high-frequency self-test signal from the sensor output and allow a sensed parameter to be determined.
In another embodiment of the invention, the sensor assembly of
Any of the above mentioned embodiments can be realized substantially in hardware and be transparent to the user as shown in the sensor assembly 400 in
In another embodiment of the invention, as illustrated in
In other specific embodiments of the preceding embodiment, sensor control and monitoring may be performed using a combination of software processing and additional support hardware. For example, a filter may be added to the output 510 of the sensor 501 to perform the filtering function and a wideband sensor output 508 may be monitored by the processor to determine if the sensor is malfunctioning.
It should be noted that a flow diagrams is used herein to demonstrate various aspects of the invention, and should not be construed to limit the present invention to any particular logic flow or logic implementation. The described logic may be partitioned into different logic blocks (e.g., programs, modules, functions, or subroutines) without changing the overall results or otherwise departing from the true scope of the invention. Oftentimes, logic elements may be added, modified, omitted, performed in a different order, or implemented using different logic constructs (e.g., logic gates, looping primitives, conditional logic, and other logic constructs) without changing the overall results or otherwise departing from the true scope of the invention.
The present invention may be embodied in many different forms, including, but in no way limited to, computer program logic for use with a processor (e.g., a microprocessor, microcontroller, digital signal processor, or general purpose computer), programmable logic for use with a programmable logic device (e.g., a Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) or other PLD), discrete components, integrated circuitry (e.g., an Application Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC)), or any other means including any combination thereof.
Computer program logic implementing all or part of the functionality previously described herein may be embodied in various forms, including, but in no way limited to, a source code form, a computer executable form, and various intermediate forms (e.g., forms generated by an assembler, compiler, linker, or locator.) Source code may include a series of computer program instructions implemented in any of various programming languages (e.g., an object code, an assembly language, or a high-level language such as Fortran, C, C++, JAVA, or HTML) for use with various operating systems or operating environments. The source code may define and use various data structures and communication messages. The source code may be in a computer-executable form (e.g., via an interpreter), or the source code may be converted (e.g., via a translator, assembler, or compiler) into a computer executable form.
The computer program may be fixed in any form (e.g., source code form, computer executable form, or an intermediate form) either permanently or transitorily in a tangible storage medium, such as a semiconductor memory device (e.g., a RAM, ROM, PROM, EEPROM, or Flash-Programmable RAM), a magnetic memory device (e.g., a diskette or fixed disk), an optical memory device (e.g., a CD-ROM), a PC card (e.g., PCMCIA card), or other memory device. The computer program may be fixed in any form in a signal that is transmittable to a computer using any of various communication technologies, including, but in no way limited to, analog technologies, digital technologies, optical technologies, wireless technologies, networking technologies, and internetworking technologies. The computer program may be distributed in any form as a removable storage medium with accompanying printed or electronic documentation (e.g., shrink wrapped software or a magnetic tape), preloaded with a computer system (e.g., on system ROM or fixed disk); or distributed from a server or electronic bulletin board over the communication system (e.g., the Internet or World Wide Web.)
Hardware logic (including programmable logic for use with a programmable logic device) implementing all or part of the functionality previously described herein may be designed using traditional manual methods, or may be designed, captured, simulated, or documented electronically using various tools, such as Computer Aided Design (CAD), a hardware description language (e.g., VHDL or AHDL), or a PLD programming language (e.g., PALASM, ABEL, or CUPL.)
Embodiments of the invention are not limited to any particular type of sensor such as the above described capacitive sensor. Further, the techniques described above may be applied to a wide range of sensor assemblies for sensing parameters beyond acceleration, rotation and the like. Other variations and modifications of the embodiments described above are intended to be within the scope of the present invention as defined in the appended claims.